I am writing to inform you about a cluster of COVID-19 cases we learned about yesterday. Last weekend, a group of at least 15 students gathered for a party at an off-campus apartment. At least one person at the party was COVID-19 positive. A few days later several of the students who attended the party came forward to report their symptoms and were quickly tested through our diagnostic testing system. Through contact tracing and additional diagnostic testing, we learned that 10 of the students at this party now have COVID-19. These students are all currently in isolation according to our protocols and several others are in quarantine. We have notified everyone who we believe could be at risk for COVID-19 as a result of this incident. We are grateful that the students who had symptoms followed our guidance and immediately reported their symptoms.
This incident is similar to other incidents we have heard about across the country this week as universities have begun to reopen for the spring semester. We know of peer institutions that have already had to initiate “stay at home” orders for students and severely limit on-campus activities because students have violated public health guidelines. We do not want this to happen here at WashU.
While the number of student COVID-19 cases here at Washington University remains relatively low, this event should serve as an important reminder to all of us. If we don’t all follow the COVID-19 requirements that we all agreed to in the pledge, particularly those around masking and physical distancing, we put ourselves and our entire community at risk. We cannot get together right now for parties or other social gatherings. This includes Super Bowl parties this weekend, Valentine’s Day, Mardi Gras, and other upcoming occasions when we normally would get together in person with others. We know this is difficult, but the more we follow our public health requirements right now, the more likely it is that we will be able to get together in person later this spring.
As a reminder, there will be disciplinary consequences for anyone found in violation of the pledge. These could include suspension and possible expulsion from campus.
Any member of our community can report violations through the COVID Concerns Portal. Please let’s use the weeks ahead to make good decisions to protect ourselves and each other. We can do this if we work together.
Interim Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs